The scarcity of tomatoes and hike in its price nationwide had been of great concern to many Nigerians this year.
The perishable vegetable, majorly cultivated during dry season, had its price astronomically go up due to many factors and in many states, unavailable.
Consequently, stakeholders gave reasons for the scarcity and the hike in price, as they made suggestions on how to tackle the dearth of the nutrient-packed food item, while government put more efforts to tackle the problem.
The Kebbi chapter of All Farmers Association (AFAN) attributed the scarcity to the lack of improved variety of seedlings to grow the commodity in commercial quantity.
The Secretary of the Association, Alhaji Muhammad Idris, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Birnin Kebbi that farmers in the state produced large quantity of tomatoes but lacked modern methods of its cultivation.
He said “there are modern varieties of tomato seedlings which, if made available to farmers, it will improve yield.
“The seeds currently being planted by farmers had been recycled in the past 20 years; tomato farming is easy but the problem is the lack of consultants to assist farmers on better ways to grow and manage the commodity.
“Traders who come to Kebbi to buy tomatoes now go to Kaduna, Zaria and Zuru to purchase the commodity, where the yield is at least better than here.’’
On his part, the Chairman of the state’s Association of Tomatoes Farmers, Alhaji Abubakar Gado, said the tomatoes scarcity was the result of pest called “tuta absoluta” that destroyed many farms.
In Kaduna State, where the tomato pest destruction was worst, farmers had solicited for assistance from government to minimise their losses.
Some of the farmers said the tuta absoluta pest could destroy farms within hours, adding that they harvested nothing from their fields as a result of the outbreak of the pest and were now living in penury.
Meanwhile, the Kaduna State Government had declared a state of emergency on tomato to tackle the outbreak.
Dr Manzo Maigari, the Kaduna State Commissioner for Agriculture and Forestry, told NAN that the state government had dispatched officials to Kenya, where an extarct from a plant was said to be effective in killing the pest.
Although there was a similar outbreak in the state on a smaller scale last year, there was however no documentation and measures taken to tackle it.
The commissioner, however, said government would open up more tomato farms and irrigation fields, equipped with modern facilities to enhance all-year-round production in the 13 tomato producing local government areas of the state.
But the AFAN Chairman in the state, Malam Nuhu Aminu, said the Association had documented 700 tomato farms in seven local government areas destroyed by the pest.
He said 500 other individual farmers with large tomoto farms were also affected by the outbreak in Ikara, Makarfi, Kubau, Anchau, Kudan, Soba and Lere loca government areas and appealed to the state and the Federal government, as well as corporate bodies to interven by assisting the affected farmers because of the magnitude of the outbreak.
The AFAN chairman said that the disease had caused so much devastation, especially among women farmers who lived on tomato production for survival.
He said most of the farms were not covered by any kind of insurance which would have assisted the farmers to recover some of the losses.
In Kano State, farmers were also asking the government for quick intervention to overcome the disease, and support them to recover the losses.
Malam Surajo Ado, one of the farmers affected in Garun Malam Local Government, said government should find solution to the disease and support farmers to mitigate the effect of the devastation.
He explained that many researchers had visited some of the affected farms, and expressed optimism that the research findings would trigger government action.